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News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

A new Oxford University collaboration revealing the world's prime insect predation hotspots, achieved its landmark findings using an unusual aid: plasticine 'dummy caterpillars.' The fact that the tropics are home to more species than the Polar Regions is well known. However, whether or not there is likely to be more predatory behaviour nearer to the Equator because of this, has remained largely unknown. The new study published in Science has revealed a global pattern of predation on insect herbivores. The trends observed were surprising, revealing that predatory behaviour in the tropics is not driven by birds or mammals but by ants and other small arthropods. The international team made the discovery by examining a fraction of caterpillars eaten along an 11,635 km gradient from the Arctic Circle to southern Australia. The work revealed that a caterpillar living near the Equator is eight times more likely to be eaten, than a caterpillar at the poles. The findings were achieved with surprisingly simple materials. To measure local predation rates, researchers glued thousands of artificial caterpillars made from plasticine, to plants across 31 sites around the world. Predators of caterpillars, such as birds and ants, are then tricked into thinking the decoy insects are the real thing, and only realise that they have been deceived when they have taken a bite. The team then revisited sites several times to check for bite marks, and evidence of any predatory behaviour. Dr Eleanor Slade, one of the study's lead authors and a researcher in Zoology at the Universities of Oxford and Lancaster, said: 'The great thing about this method is that you can track down who the predator was by inspecting the attack marks. The jaws of an insect, like an ant, will leave two small piercings, whereas a bird beak will cause wedge-shaped marks. Mammals will leave teeth marks -- well, you get the idea." Tomas Roslin, the other lead author and Professor of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Helsinki, said: 'The pattern was not only mirrored on both sides of the Equator, but also appeared across elevational gradients. Moving up a mountain slope you find the same decrease in predation risk as when moving towards the Poles. This suggests a common driver could be controlling species interactions at a global scale.' Decoy insects have been used in previous ecology studies, but never before on such a broad scale. It was comparing results from these smaller initiatives that inspired the team to take their research to the next level. Eleanor Slade said: "Tomas had used plasticine caterpillars in Greenland and thought they didn't work when he found very low attack rates. I had used them in the rainforests in Borneo, and had detected very high attack rates. Just imagine if these are the two end points of a global pattern, we thought. And that is exactly what they turned out to be.' The replica insects were placed at far-flung locations across the globe, which meant that gathering the corresponding data required a lot of team work, with a total of 40 researchers from 21 countries working on the project. Bess Hardwick, the laboratory manager for the research, at the University of Helsinki, Finland, said: "This is the beauty of what are called 'distributed experiments'. As ecologists, we typically ask questions about patterns and processes much larger than we as single researchers or teams can examine. But by designing experiments that can be split into smaller work packages, we can involve collaborators all over the world, and work together to understand the bigger picture.' For the insights gained to be comparable, consistency and standardisation were key. The dummy caterpillars were designed at and sent to researchers from the projects central "hatchery," at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Moulded from green plasticine, the materials were shaped to closely resemble "loopers" (or "inchworms"). Even the glue used to attach them to plants was included in the kit to ensure the same look and smell of caterpillars across all sites. A total of 2,879 were used in the study and left at the sties over the course of four to 18 days. The caterpillars were then carefully detached from the leaves and returned to Helsinki for analysis. Led by Bess Hardwick, the team inspected the caterpillars for signs of predator-induced damage, such as bite marks. By attributing each attack mark to a specific predator group, the team was then able to identify a clear culprit behind the latitudinal gradient in attack rates. Dr Will Petry, Postdoctoral Research Associate at ETH Zurich, who contributed data and supported analysis from California, said: 'People often think of vertebrates as the most important predators in the tropics, but birds and mammals weren't the groups responsible for the increase in predation risk towards the Equator. Instead tiny arthropod predators like ants drove the pattern.' The findings may also have implications for herbivore evolution, Dr Petry said: 'Our results suggest that tropical caterpillars would do well to target their defences and camouflage specifically against arthropod predators. Closer to the poles, lower predation may allow caterpillars to let their guard down.' Professor Roslin said: 'To understand why the world stays green and is not fully consumed by hordes of caterpillars, we should appreciate the role of arthropod predators. Our findings suggest that their role may be even further accentuated towards the Equator." Herbivores in tropical forests remove 10 to 30 per cent of a plant's leaf area per year. Interactions between plants and their herbivores and predators will therefore affect forest eco-system structures, and in turn how they function. When there is higher predation of leaf-eating caterpillars this may cascade through the ecosystem, with knock-on effects for the growth and survival of plants. Uncovering a gradient in how species interact therefore provides a foundation for understanding global patterns in ecosystem processes (e.g. herbivory and plant productivity), ecosystem services, (e.g. carbon storage and crop yields), and how long-term changes in the environment may affect biodiversity. Moving forward, it is hoped that the findings will stimulate further academic investigation into whether the patterns revealed translate into cascading effects for herbivory of plant leaves, and whether these patterns will ultimately affect the structure and function of forest ecosystems.


News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A new Oxford University collaboration revealing the world's prime insect predation hotspots, achieved its landmark findings using an unusual aid: plasticine 'dummy caterpillars.' The fact that the tropics are home to more species than the Polar Regions is well known. However, whether or not there is likely to be more predatory behaviour nearer to the Equator because of this, has remained largely unknown. The new study published in Science has revealed a global pattern of predation on insect herbivores. The trends observed were surprising, revealing that predatory behaviour in the tropics is not driven by birds or mammals but by ants and other small arthropods. The international team made the discovery by examining a fraction of caterpillars eaten along an 11,635 km gradient from the Arctic Circle to southern Australia. The work revealed that a caterpillar living near the Equator is eight times more likely to be eaten, than a caterpillar at the poles. The findings were achieved with surprisingly simple materials. To measure local predation rates, researchers glued thousands of artificial caterpillars made from plasticine, to plants across 31 sites around the world. Predators of caterpillars, such as birds and ants, are then tricked into thinking the decoy insects are the real thing, and only realise that they have been deceived when they have taken a bite. The team then revisited sites several times to check for bite marks, and evidence of any predatory behaviour. Dr Eleanor Slade, one of the study's lead authors and a researcher in Zoology at the Universities of Oxford and Lancaster, said: 'The great thing about this method is that you can track down who the predator was by inspecting the attack marks. The jaws of an insect, like an ant, will leave two small piercings, whereas a bird beak will cause wedge-shaped marks. Mammals will leave teeth marks -- well, you get the idea." Tomas Roslin, the other lead author and Professor of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Helsinki, said: 'The pattern was not only mirrored on both sides of the Equator, but also appeared across elevational gradients. Moving up a mountain slope you find the same decrease in predation risk as when moving towards the Poles. This suggests a common driver could be controlling species interactions at a global scale.' Decoy insects have been used in previous ecology studies, but never before on such a broad scale. It was comparing results from these smaller initiatives that inspired the team to take their research to the next level. Eleanor Slade said: "Tomas had used plasticine caterpillars in Greenland and thought they didn't work when he found very low attack rates. I had used them in the rainforests in Borneo, and had detected very high attack rates. Just imagine if these are the two end points of a global pattern, we thought. And that is exactly what they turned out to be.' The replica insects were placed at far-flung locations across the globe, which meant that gathering the corresponding data required a lot of team work, with a total of 40 researchers from 21 countries working on the project. Bess Hardwick, the laboratory manager for the research, at the University of Helsinki, Finland, said: "This is the beauty of what are called 'distributed experiments'. As ecologists, we typically ask questions about patterns and processes much larger than we as single researchers or teams can examine. But by designing experiments that can be split into smaller work packages, we can involve collaborators all over the world, and work together to understand the bigger picture.' For the insights gained to be comparable, consistency and standardisation were key. The dummy caterpillars were designed at and sent to researchers from the projects central "hatchery", at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Moulded from green plasticine, the materials were shaped to closely resemble "loopers" (or "inchworms"). Even the glue used to attach them to plants was included in the kit to ensure the same look and smell of caterpillars across all sites. A total of 2,879 were used in the study and left at the sties over the course of four to 18 days. The caterpillars were then carefully detached from the leaves and returned to Helsinki for analysis. Led by Bess Hardwick, the team inspected the caterpillars for signs of predator-induced damage, such as bite marks. By attributing each attack mark to a specific predator group, the team was then able to identify a clear culprit behind the latitudinal gradient in attack rates. Dr Will Petry, Postdoctoral Research Associate at ETH Zurich, who contributed data and supported analysis from California, said: 'People often think of vertebrates as the most important predators in the tropics, but birds and mammals weren't the groups responsible for the increase in predation risk towards the Equator. Instead tiny arthropod predators like ants drove the pattern.' The findings may also have implications for herbivore evolution, Dr Petry said: 'Our results suggest that tropical caterpillars would do well to target their defences and camouflage specifically against arthropod predators. Closer to the poles, lower predation may allow caterpillars to let their guard down.' Professor Roslin said: 'To understand why the world stays green and is not fully consumed by hordes of caterpillars, we should appreciate the role of arthropod predators. Our findings suggest that their role may be even further accentuated towards the Equator." Herbivores in tropical forests remove 10 to 30 per cent of a plant's leaf area per year. Interactions between plants and their herbivores and predators will therefore affect forest eco-system structures, and in turn how they function. When there is higher predation of leaf-eating caterpillars this may cascade through the ecosystem, with knock-on effects for the growth and survival of plants. Uncovering a gradient in how species interact therefore provides a foundation for understanding global patterns in ecosystem processes (e.g. herbivory and plant productivity), ecosystem services, (e.g. carbon storage and crop yields), and how long-term changes in the environment may affect biodiversity. Moving forward, it is hoped that the findings will stimulate further academic investigation into whether the patterns revealed translate into cascading effects for herbivory of plant leaves, and whether these patterns will ultimately affect the structure and function of forest ecosystems. The full citation for this paper is 'Higher Predation Risk for Insect Prey at Low Latitudes and Elevations," By T. Roslin et al. It is available to download from Science from Thursday 18 May 2017 http://www. For further information please contact Lanisha Butterfield, Media Relations Manager, University of Oxford, at 01865 280531 or lanisha.butterfield@admin.ox.ac.uk The Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division (MPLS) is one of four academic divisions at the University of Oxford, representing the non-medical sciences. Oxford is one of the world's leading universities for science, and MPLS is at the forefront of scientific research across a wide range of disciplines. Research in the mathematical, physical and life sciences at Oxford was rated the best in the UK in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment. MPLS received £133m in research income in 2014/15.


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.com

"Today's marketplace, with its constant regulatory flux and the emergence of disruptive technologies, increasingly demands the ability to anticipate developments and capture value through forward-looking risk decision-making," Debs said. "As a result, there has rarely been a more interesting time for CEOs and boards of directors to pose the question: 'do we have the right risk talent in place for the coming business cycle?'" Prior to joining RSR Partners, Mr. Debs worked at J.P. Morgan for 15 years, most recently as an Executive Director in risk management, focused on energy, project finance, and insurance. Mr. Debs also has extensive experience in academic research and teaching within the field of the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics and relativity theory. He has served as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University, and on the teaching faculties of the London School of Economics and the American University of Beirut. Mr. Debs earned his AB in Physics and History & Science from Harvard College, his MPhil in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge, and his PhD in the philosophical foundations of physics, also from Cambridge. He serves as a Trustee of Gordon College, a Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics, and a Director of Indian Harbor Yacht Club. To learn more about RSR Partners' Risk Practice, click here. RSR Partners is a leader in corporate governance consulting, board director and senior-level recruiting, and strategic talent advisory. The company was founded in 1993 by Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rsr-partners-appoints-talal-debs-as-head-of-firms-risk-practice-300458576.html


Author, Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Research Associate at Future of Humanity Institute of the University of Oxford, will share his vision of the future of artificial intelligence


Seawater in Egypt could be turned into drinking water using biomass energy as a source of heat in a new collaborative project from academics at the University of Sheffield UK and Port Said University in Egypt. The unique two year project will see academics from the world-leading Energy 2050 Institute partner with Egyptian experts to develop a system that could provide fresh and safe water to poor and rural communities. Egypt's growing population and scarcity of water resources means that freshwater supplies are becoming increasingly stressed. Desalination technologies, which produce drinkable water from seawater, offer an alternative source of water but at a high energy cost. Renewable solar energy has been used extensively in these technologies but is not consistent due to not enough sunlight on cloudy days and at night. A hybrid system using biogas and solar is an entirely new technology with only a handful of studies being attempted so far. There are several options for the integration of the hybrid energy system and the desalination process and the process will explore both thermal and electrically based freshwater production systems. The collaborative team will investigate whether biogas produced from biological matter - such as cattle manure - could be used as a feasible backup to solar. At the same time, the team will find the optimum way of integrating the two technologies to maximise fresh water production. The project will involve a survey of biogas resources in Egypt, a model-based design and optimisation of the hybrid desalination system and will investigate the operational strategies to ensure cost-effective and reliable drinking water supply to rural communities. The team hope that the hybridisation of biogas and solar energy sources will lead to more reliable and flexible energy production but also will be cheaper than using a single renewable energy technology alone, given that both biomass and solar energy are in abundance in Egypt. Dr Mark Walker, Research Associate at Energy 2050, said: "The first part of the project will see us look at how to maximise fresh water production at the lowest cost. We'll also be investigating how different wastes can help us to produce the most energy to supply the system. "Our project could provide continuous production of fresh water to rural areas, at a low cost and smaller carbon footprint than current technologies." A pilot demonstration system will be built in Egypt and will be monitored by the joint UK/Egyptian team to assess its performance. The team hope to install integrated desalination systems in poor and rural communities of Egypt like Sinai, Nile-Delta and Upper Egypt. Dr Mohamed Hammam, Assistant Professor at Port Said University, said: "This project is important from many perspectives. Beside the technological and economical benefits, it allows researchers from two institutes with famous experience in the field of renewable energy and combustion to work closely together." The project has been funded by two programmes: the British Council's Newton Fund Institutional Links programme which helps UK institutions build strong and sustainable relationships and helps to promote economic development and social welfare of partner countries, and Science and Technology Development Fund in Egypt (STDF), the main organisation of funding research and development projects of Egyptian universities and research institutes. With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world's leading universities. A member of the UK's prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in. Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields. Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations. For further information, please visit: http://www. One of the UK's largest energy research institutes based at the University of Sheffield, our initiative focuses on energy innovation and knowledge exchange and brings together more than 120 academics, and 250 PhD students. It's a research institute that goes beyond traditional research boundaries by delivering innovations to power producers and major consumers with technology providers, focused on competitiveness and the de-risking of large scale investment in new technologies both in the UK and internationally. For further information, please visit: http://www.


News Article | May 22, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Green Chimneys announced the publication of a study exploring the effectiveness of an animal-assisted social skills intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Research was conducted at Green Chimneys, a therapeutic school and treatment center for children facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Findings demonstrate that incorporating therapy dogs in social skills training is a valid approach to teaching children with ASD to engage with peers and improve social interaction. “Not only do dogs appear to have a positive effect on children’s emotional states, but they can also be motivating factors that encourage social interaction and involvement,” said Dr. Joanna Becker, PhD, Sam and Myra Ross Institute Research Associate and the study’s principal investigator. “Animal-assisted interventions are a valid approach for teaching children with autism spectrum disorders the skills necessary to engage with peers, family members, and the larger community.” Dr. Becker, along with co-PIs Dr. Erica Rogers and Dr. Bethany Burrows, analyzed 31 Green Chimneys students ages 8-14 diagnosed with ASD and compared social and emotional functioning before and after the intervention. Students either participated in an animal-assisted social skills group or in a traditional social skills training group without an animal present. Findings showed that the inclusion of dogs in social skills training was more effective than traditional programs. Specifically, participants who received the animal-assisted social skills intervention exhibited fewer social skills deficits overall, fewer restricted and repetitive behaviors, and more typical social communication following the intervention. The study also found that participants who received the animal-assisted social skills intervention exhibited a greater level of change in social skills, perspective taking, theory of mind, and decreased feelings of isolation and depression. “HABRI is proud to have partnered with Green Chimneys on this important research,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “HABRI will continue to fund innovative projects that expand our knowledge of the human-animal bond and the remarkable power of companion animals to improve our health.” “The value of partnership with organizations such as HABRI is the opportunity to add to the growing pool of data demonstrating the benefits of integrating animals into therapy,” said Dr. Steven Klee, Green Chimneys Associate Executive Director of Clinical & Medical Services. Research Citation: Becker, Joanna L., Rogers, Erica C., Burrows Bethany. “Animal-assisted Social Skills Training for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders” Anthrozoös 30.2 (2017): 307-326. Web. 17 May 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2017.1311055 About HABRI HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit http://www.habri.org. About Green Chimneys Green Chimneys is a multi-faceted nonprofit organization helping young people to maximize their full potential by providing residential, educational, clinical and recreational services in a safe and supportive environment that nurtures connections with their families, the community, animals and nature. Services include an accredited special education school on two campuses, residential treatment center, animal-assisted and nature-based therapeutic programs, public education and recreation programs, and community-based support for youth and families. All research is conducted under The Sam and Myra Ross Institute which serves to facilitate understanding, education and medical recognition of the significant influence of nature-based therapies, education and interactions. http://www.greenchimneys.org


The unique two year project will see academics from the world-leading Energy 2050 Institute partner with Egyptian experts to develop a system that could provide fresh and safe water to poor and rural communities. Egypt's growing population and scarcity of water resources means that freshwater supplies are becoming increasingly stressed. Desalination technologies, which produce drinkable water from seawater, offer an alternative source of water but at a high energy cost. Renewable solar energy has been used extensively in these technologies but is not consistent due to not enough sunlight on cloudy days and at night. A hybrid system using biogas and solar is an entirely new technology with only a handful of studies being attempted so far. There are several options for the integration of the hybrid energy system and the desalination process and the process will explore both thermal and electrically based freshwater production systems. The collaborative team will investigate whether biogas produced from biological matter - such as cattle manure - could be used as a feasible backup to solar. At the same time, the team will find the optimum way of integrating the two technologies to maximise fresh water production. The project will involve a survey of biogas resources in Egypt, a model-based design and optimisation of the hybrid desalination system and will investigate the operational strategies to ensure cost-effective and reliable drinking water supply to rural communities. The team hope that the hybridisation of biogas and solar energy sources will lead to more reliable and flexible energy production but also will be cheaper than using a single renewable energy technology alone, given that both biomass and solar energy are in abundance in Egypt. Dr Mark Walker, Research Associate at Energy 2050, said: "The first part of the project will see us look at how to maximise fresh water production at the lowest cost. We'll also be investigating how different wastes can help us to produce the most energy to supply the system. "Our project could provide continuous production of fresh water to rural areas, at a low cost and smaller carbon footprint than current technologies." A pilot demonstration system will be built in Egypt and will be monitored by the joint UK/Egyptian team to assess its performance. The team hope to install integrated desalination systems in poor and rural communities of Egypt like Sinai, Nile-Delta and Upper Egypt. Dr Mohamed Hammam, Assistant Professor at Port Said University, said: "This project is important from many perspectives. Beside the technological and economical benefits, it allows researchers from two institutes with famous experience in the field of renewable energy and combustion to work closely together."


News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: phys.org

The fact that the tropics are home to more species than the Polar Regions is well known. However, whether or not there is likely to be more predatory behaviour nearer to the Equator because of this, has remained largely unknown. The new study published in Science has revealed a global pattern of predation on insect herbivores. The trends observed were surprising, revealing that predatory behaviour in the tropics is not driven by birds or mammals but by ants and other small arthropods. The international team made the discovery by examining a fraction of caterpillars eaten along an 11,635 km gradient from the Arctic Circle to southern Australia. The work revealed that a caterpillar living near the Equator is eight times more likely to be eaten, than a caterpillar at the poles. The findings were achieved with surprisingly simple materials. To measure local predation rates, researchers glued thousands of artificial caterpillars made from plasticine, to plants across 31 sites around the world. Predators of caterpillars, such as birds and ants, are then tricked into thinking the decoy insects are the real thing, and only realise that they have been deceived when they have taken a bite. The team then revisited sites several times to check for bite marks, and evidence of any predatory behaviour. Dr Eleanor Slade, one of the study's lead authors and a researcher in Zoology at the Universities of Oxford and Lancaster, said: 'The great thing about this method is that you can track down who the predator was by inspecting the attack marks. The jaws of an insect, like an ant, will leave two small piercings, whereas a bird beak will cause wedge-shaped marks. Mammals will leave teeth marks—well, you get the idea." Tomas Roslin, the other lead author and Professor of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Helsinki, said: 'The pattern was not only mirrored on both sides of the Equator, but also appeared across elevational gradients. Moving up a mountain slope you find the same decrease in predation risk as when moving towards the Poles. This suggests a common driver could be controlling species interactions at a global scale.' Decoy insects have been used in previous ecology studies, but never before on such a broad scale. It was comparing results from these smaller initiatives that inspired the team to take their research to the next level. Eleanor Slade said: "Tomas had used plasticine caterpillars in Greenland and thought they didn't work when he found very low attack rates. I had used them in the rainforests in Borneo, and had detected very high attack rates. Just imagine if these are the two end points of a global pattern, we thought. And that is exactly what they turned out to be.' The replica insects were placed at far-flung locations across the globe, which meant that gathering the corresponding data required a lot of team work, with a total of 40 researchers from 21 countries working on the project. Bess Hardwick, the laboratory manager for the research, at the University of Helsinki, Finland, said: "This is the beauty of what are called 'distributed experiments'. As ecologists, we typically ask questions about patterns and processes much larger than we as single researchers or teams can examine. But by designing experiments that can be split into smaller work packages, we can involve collaborators all over the world, and work together to understand the bigger picture.' For the insights gained to be comparable, consistency and standardisation were key. The dummy caterpillars were designed at and sent to researchers from the projects central "hatchery", at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Moulded from green plasticine, the materials were shaped to closely resemble "loopers" (or "inchworms"). Even the glue used to attach them to plants was included in the kit to ensure the same look and smell of caterpillars across all sites. A total of 2,879 were used in the study and left at the sties over the course of four to 18 days. The caterpillars were then carefully detached from the leaves and returned to Helsinki for analysis. Led by Bess Hardwick, the team inspected the caterpillars for signs of predator-induced damage, such as bite marks. By attributing each attack mark to a specific predator group, the team was then able to identify a clear culprit behind the latitudinal gradient in attack rates. Dr Will Petry, Postdoctoral Research Associate at ETH Zurich, who contributed data and supported analysis from California, said: 'People often think of vertebrates as the most important predators in the tropics, but birds and mammals weren't the groups responsible for the increase in predation risk towards the Equator. Instead tiny arthropod predators like ants drove the pattern.' The findings may also have implications for herbivore evolution, Dr Petry said: 'Our results suggest that tropical caterpillars would do well to target their defences and camouflage specifically against arthropod predators. Closer to the poles, lower predation may allow caterpillars to let their guard down.' Professor Roslin said: 'To understand why the world stays green and is not fully consumed by hordes of caterpillars, we should appreciate the role of arthropod predators. Our findings suggest that their role may be even further accentuated towards the Equator." Herbivores in tropical forests remove 10 to 30 per cent of a plant's leaf area per year. Interactions between plants and their herbivores and predators will therefore affect forest eco-system structures, and in turn how they function. When there is higher predation of leaf-eating caterpillars this may cascade through the ecosystem, with knock-on effects for the growth and survival of plants. Uncovering a gradient in how species interact therefore provides a foundation for understanding global patterns in ecosystem processes (e.g. herbivory and plant productivity), ecosystem services, (e.g. carbon storage and crop yields), and how long-term changes in the environment may affect biodiversity. Moving forward, it is hoped that the findings will stimulate further academic investigation into whether the patterns revealed translate into cascading effects for herbivory of plant leaves, and whether these patterns will ultimately affect the structure and function of forest ecosystems. Explore further: Caterpillars found to use vibrations to attract other caterpillars More information: T. Roslin at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden el al., "Higher predation risk for insect prey at low latitudes and elevations," Science (2017). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaj1631


News Article | April 13, 2017
Site: www.rdmag.com

A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) could help researchers develop personalized treatments for alcoholism and alcohol use disorder. The research reveals a key difference between the brains of alcohol-dependent versus nondependent rats. When given alcohol, both groups showed increased activity in a region of the brain called the central amygdala (CeA)—but this activity was due to two completely different brain signaling pathways. TSRI Professor Marisa Roberto, senior author of the new study, said the findings could help researchers develop more personalized treatments for alcohol dependence, as they evaluate how a person’s brain responds to different therapeutics. The findings were published recently online ahead of print in The Journal of Neuroscience. The new research builds on the Roberto lab’s previous discovery that alcohol increases neuronal activity in the CeA. The researchers found increased activity both nondependent, or naïve, and alcohol-dependent rats. As they investigated this phenomenon in the new study, Roberto and her colleagues were surprised to find that the mechanisms underlying this increased activity differed between the two groups. By giving naïve rats a dose of alcohol, the researchers engaged proteins called calcium channels and increased neuronal activity. Neurons fired as the specific calcium channels at play, called L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (LTCCs), boosted the release of a neurotransmitter called GABA. Blocking these LTCCs reduced voluntary alcohol consumption in naïve rats. But in alcohol-dependent rats, the researchers found decreased abundance of LTCCs on neuronal cell membranes, disrupting their normal ability to drive a dose of alcohol’s effects on CeA activity. Instead, increased neuronal activity was driven by a stress hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and its type 1 receptor (CRF1). The researchers found that blocking CeA CRF1s reduced voluntary alcohol consumption in the dependent rats. Studying these two groups shed light on how alcohol functionally alters the brain, Roberto explained. “There is a switch in the molecular mechanisms underlying the CeA’s response to alcohol (from LTCC- to CRF1-driven) as the individual transitions to the alcohol-dependent state,” she said. The cellular and molecular experiments were led by TSRI Research Associate and study first author Florence Varodayan. The behavioral tests were conducted by TSRI Research Associate Giordano de Guglielmo in the lab of TSRI Associate Professor Olivier George. Roberto hopes the findings lead to better ways to treat alcohol dependence. Alcohol use disorder appears to have many different root causes, but the new findings suggest doctors could analyze certain symptoms or genetic markers to determine which patients are likely to have CRF-CRF1 hyperactivation and benefit from the development of a novel drug that blocks that activity. In addition to Roberto, Varodayan and de Guglielmo, authors of the study, “Alcohol dependence disrupts amygdalar L-type voltage-gated calcium channel mechanisms,” were Marian Logrip and Olivier George of TSRI. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants AA015566, AA021491, AA017447, AA006420, AA013498, AA020608, AA022977 and AA021802).


Hand washing is considered as one of the most effective hygiene promotion activities for public health in developing countries. This study compared hand washing knowledge and practices in BRAC's water; sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme areas over time. This study is a cross-sectional comparative study between baseline (2006), midline (2009) and end-line (2011) surveys in 50 sub-districts from the first phase of the programme. Thirty thousand households from 50 sub-districts were selected in two steps: i) 30 villages were selected from each sub-district by cluster sampling, and ii) 20 households were chosen systematically from each village. The matched households were considered (26,404 in each survey) for analysis. Data were collected from households through face-to-face interview using a pre-tested questionnaire. Respondents were the adult female members of the same households, who had knowledge of day-to-day household activities related to water, sanitation and hygiene. A gap between perception and practice of proper hand washing practices with soap was identified in the study areas. Hand washing practice with soap before eating was much lower than after defecation. In baseline data, 8% reported to wash their hands with soap which significantly increased to 22% in end line. Hand washing knowledge and practices before cooking food, before serving food and while handling babies is considerably limited than other critical times. A multivariate analysis shows that socio-economic factors including education of household head and respondent, water availability and access to media have strong positive association with hand washing with soap. Gap between knowledge and practice still persists in hand washing practices. Long term and extensive initiatives can aware people about the effectiveness of hand washing.

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